…scientists led by Trond Torsvik from the University of Oslo say they have identified a micro-continent that sunk beneath the western Indian Ocean, near Mauritius, millions of years ago.
Professor Torsvik says he believes one part of the continent survived and now forms the Seychelles - an isolated group of islands between Madagascar and India.
"At the moment the Seychelles is a piece of granite or continental crust which is sitting practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but once upon a time it was sitting north of Madagascar," he said.
"What we're saying is that maybe this was much bigger and there are many of these continental fragments which are spread around in the Indian Ocean."
The giant original land mass was called Pangaea, in pre-dinosaur time. When it split, it began the process of continental movement which has created the modern continents.
This new discovery is also a new ballgame for the earth sciences. It’s long been realized that knowledge of the ancient continents was at best sketchy. The older geological formations are often buried under the new, so mapping out the shapes and sizes of ancient continents has been a pretty thankless task until now.
This could fill in a large number of blanks in palaeontology. Paleo is the most fundamental of the Earth sciences, trying to reassemble Earth’s history on a gigantic scale over a colossal time frame. Understanding the mechanisms of the formation and changes in continental masses is the key.
This new discovery is a major achievement in finally unmasking the physical processes of continental formation, and/or in this case destruction. In many ways a micro continent is the ideal subject for effective study, creating well-defined parameters for analysis.
It’s also a big deal in terms of unravelling the history of the Indian Ocean. This huge ocean was the stage for the movement of Australia, Africa and India. The Indian subcontinent split from Australia, collided with Asia, and raised the Himalayas, for example. The Indo-Australian Plate is one of the world’s larger, and most mysterious tectonic regions. Expect to hear more revisions of things the world has been taught for years as the study of the micro continent progresses.